Christ, God’s Companionship To Man

From Avvenire, March 14, 1982. Text of the 1982 Easter Poster.
Luigi Giussani

Christ is the man who said He was God. One day Philip, expressing the unspoken questions of the apostles who, in spite of having followed Jesus for some years, did not understand well (as we don’t understand when we hear the word “God” or the word “Mystery”), asked Jesus: “Let us see the Father.” Jesus answered: “whoever sees me sees the Father.”
Christ is the only man in history who identified Himself with God, the only one who dared to say: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” We, distracted by the daily routine and our superficial way of living, do not realise the boundless disproportion, the infinite distance that separated man from God. But a deeply religious soul, a religious genius realises how great this disproportion is, and teaches it to everybody: only God is God.
This is what all the great figures in the history of religions have done, Buddha and Mohammed too. Moses was so conscious of his own smallness before God, that he pleaded with God to entrust the mission to someone else.
But amongst all these, there is one who stands out alone: this man who is Christ says He is God.
How beautiful it is, going through the Gospel, to discover that the first ones, men like us, who followed Jesus, reached the point of not realising that this man was God, but of saying, repeating what he claimed about Himself. This is their profession of faith.
This was because the apostles did not discover that Jesus was God, but being with Him they got a big impression, so great that they “had to” say: if we are not to believe in this man, we are not to believe even our own eyes. It is because of this evidence that, even without understanding well, they repeated His words, which were to shape history and our hearts. (…)
This is the highway to evidence and reason: it is the road of life, of continuous relationship, of daily sharing. This is why they could say: if we do not believe in this man we cannot even trust our own eyes. The crowd instead followed Jesus when He aroused their curiosity or when they had something to gain by it. But they were struck because His words were true. And the evidence of the truth cannot be denied. But their interest soon died: the crowd followed Him because they enjoyed hearing Him, without committing themselves or involving their lives.
In chapter 6 of St. John, Jesus, moved because people follow him, has the most fascinating intuition of His life: “You follow me because I satisfied your hunger with bread; but I will give you my flesh to eat and my blood to drink.” The great disproportion of the Godhead reveals itself here, becomes evident, and it is here that begins the resistance of those who do not want to understand, of those who are scandalised because the criteria and the ways of this man upset their way of thinking.
“He is mad: who can give his flesh to eat and his blood to drink?” Angry whispering created general noise, and the whole crowd shouts and they leave the synagogue. Christ remains alone with His people in the silence of the evening. And He breaks the silence with another question: “Do you want to go away too?” “Master”–cries Peter again suddenly and impetuously–“We don’t understand what you are saying either, but if we go away from you, where do we go? Only You have the word which gives meaning to our life.”
This is the answer of someone who has the humility, the faithfulness, and the humanity needed to follow Jesus, because he is attracted by the evidence of the truth of His words.
But whoever cannot follow, who does not dare to make the effort of becoming familiar, with the daily sharing of his life, will never manage to make the truth evident, and will not find an answer that is true, personal and mature to the fundamental, definitive question that Jesus puts them “and you who do you say I am?”
How can we answer this question, we, who are not present at the wedding at Cana, and who did not witness the cure of the paralytic, who did not attend the funeral of Naim, who hadn’t followed Him for three days in the bush, forgetting even the hunger?
How can we live out the familiarity with Him, that familiarity in which His word becomes evident and the only one that gives meaning to life?
There is a way: the companionship born of Christ has erupted in history: it is the Church, His body, the mode of His presence today, a day-by-day familiarity, a commitment in the mystery of his presence within the sign that is the Church.
This is how a rational evidence, fully reasonable, can be born, which makes us repeat with certainty what He, unique in the history of humanity, said of himself: I am the way, the truth, and the life.